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(Yes my name is Stephen)

Over the last few years, I've noticed almost everyone pronounces "Stephen" not as "Steven", but as "Stefan". Before about 2012, I very rarely heard "Stephen" pronounced "Stefan". Now, it feels ubiquitous. New acquaintances, uber/lyft drivers, landlords, etc. use "Stefan" the moment they see the 'ph'

I keep wondering when this shift occurred, and if Stephen King has to constantly correct people when they see his name.

My working theory - Steph Curry has something to do with this.

Edit: I found this which explains why the 'ph' is pronounced as a 'v'. I'm really wondering why I've had to correct almost every new person I meet.

Edit 2

Currently, I'm living in a big southern (South Eastern US) city. When I've traveled outside of the south, I've been routinely called "Stefan", its only been the last 5 or 6 years that I've been routinely called "Stefan" in the south.

At least in the south "Stephen" and "Stefan" are two distinct names, and "Stephen" (pronounced "Steven") is the overwhelming favorite in the southern US.

closed as primarily opinion-based by TimLymington, Chappo, JJJ, Cascabel, Robusto Jun 5 at 18:07

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is just speculation, but perhaps it has something to do with the outbreak of creative naming among parents lately. Phonetics are being taken to their limits to alter the spellings of traditional names (let alone in the fabrication of new ones). I could see people's trying to adjust to this shift being a reason for more sounding out names so as not to offend, rather than assuming traditional pronunciations. – Jas. MacOisdealbha Jun 21 '18 at 14:28
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    "Almost everyone"? I work with a Stephen, a Steven and a Stefan, and nobody ever mispronounces any of their names. – Michael Harvey Jun 21 '18 at 16:36
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    What country are you living in? If there are many immigrants from countries where Stefan is the more-commonly pronounced variant, that could have some effect. – Mike Harris Jun 21 '18 at 19:26
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    I think that Britain very, very few people would see 'Stephen' and not know that it is pronounced exactly like Steven. We know of some famous ones - Hawking, Fry, King. – Michael Harvey Jun 21 '18 at 19:39
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    @sevensevens As a Brit with a deep ignorance of American sport I thought Steph Curry was a woman's name. Stephanie has always, so far as I know, been pronounced "Stefanie" and "Steph" has been the short form for years. This side of the pond at least Stephens are usually called "Steve" and Stephanies are usually called "Steph" (pronounced "Stef") when their names are shortened. – BoldBen May 31 at 23:25
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Since this question hasn't been closed, here's a guess as to what is going on.

Laura Wattenberg of BabyNameWizard.com, apparently a widely quoted authority of the subject of American baby names, points out that fewer babies share the same name now than fifty years ago. At the start of the baby boom, over 40 percent of babies born had one of the 20 most popular names in the country, mostly English names of saints: John, Mary, Christopher, Elizabeth, Michael, and so on.

According to the Social Security Administration baby names website, Steven appears in the top 20 list of names for boys born in the United States from 1949 to 1976. In 1961, almost 1.5% of all boys born in the U.S. were named Steven. Stephen was likewise very popular, peaking at #19 for boys born 1949–51. Plain Steve is rarer, but breaks into the top 50 from 1957 to 1963.

Since its postwar heydey, the name has seen a steep drop-off. Chart of popularity of the name 'Steven' and variants in the U.S.

("NameVoyager" chart from BabyNameWizard.com, based on Social Security Administration data, hence the huge surge after the 1930s).

That isn't because the name has gained any negative associations, at least more than any other name, but because there is a much wider diversity of baby names now thanks to a combination of factors from mass immigration to a cultural preference for uniqueness. It isn't just Steven; there are proportionally fewer Roberts and Williams and more Jaylens and Trigs.

While Steven has undergone a secular decline, more exotic variants have been climbing the charts:

Chart of popularity of the name 'Stefan' in the U.S.

Note the y-axis and don't draw the wrong conclusion here; Steven is still orders of magnitude more popular than Stefan for newborn American boys. But you can see that it rises from almost total obscurity to something popular enough that the average person might encounter it. Stephan similarly shows a meteoric rise, peaking in the 1980s.

In 1960, Stephen would probably have been accepted as a variant of Steven, whose pronunciation is unambiguous, as might Kathryn for Catherine. By 2010, there are proportionally fewer Stevens and Stephens out and about, proportionally more Stephans and Stefans, and greater awareness of the latter pronunciation thanks to the Internet, if nothing else from clips of Steve Urkel's alter-ego Stefan Urquelle being shared nostalgically.

Possibly, these effects are exaggerated in the South, or possibly it's some other factor, like maybe Southerners are more— or less— likely to address you by name than people in other parts of the country, so you notice it more. I also doubt that 2012 represents any kind of cutoff, and unless we have actual evidence that usage changed around that time, it's probably just the first time you noticed a trend that had been growing for decades.

  • I wonder what happened around the year 2010 that Stefan dropped so radically to nought, and then rose even more radically again the following year… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 23 '18 at 21:11
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I would guess a glitch with the source data, as it looks like the entire decade of the 90s might be missing, causing the charting software to record a linear decline to zero starting from 1990—extremely unlikely to be a natural phenomenon. – choster Jul 23 '18 at 21:14
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I am a Stephen and it is true even in the last century the two spellings have often been used as similar or related names but not regarded as the same due to spelling. From Birth to 6 living with My immediate family I was addressed gender properly as "STEV-en". At the age of 6 I went to go live with a different branch of My family and I had a crude re-intro to My name and they pronounced it as "STeF-ən" I lived with them till the age of 9 and I returned to My immediate family and reprised the "STEV-en" pronunciation. It wasn't until I was 16 that I had heard the pronunciation of "STeF-ən" by a Female Puerto Rican Classmate. It was unnerving. As time had passed since then there have been times I introduced My first name as "STEV-en with a ph" or if My name was read off it had often been pronounced as "STeF-ən" they have been unnerving experiences but most people often refereed to Me as "Steve" as a means of respecting My name. I ran a Conservative crusade on the internet to get people to understand the Gender Phonetics but what had actually made Me rescind the war I had been waging is that I had started to realize That there are about a 45% who were named or converted to the " STeF-ən" pronunciation. They had originally been tagged as Stephan is STeF-an and Stephen was STEV-en. So in fact both version have been used ambiguously pronounced. Most pronunciation Text keys in Baby Name books and website yield both pronunciations. It is like DATA: DAY-Tuh or Dae-Tuh.

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I'm a Stephen too, and I've had almost the exact same experience. It was so annoying at first, but I guess I've gotten use to it. Generally, it seems to happen most with people younger than 30, and also with people in the lower income demographic and/or less educated (not sure why that is). It's kind of crazy though, because Stephen King is still definitely one of the best selling authors of all time, and of course Stephen is also a biblical name.

But here's my hypothesis. While there may be several factors that have caused this issue, the biggest has to be Steph Curry. That's when it really started happening. Started around 2012/2013, and then got crazy around 2015, which according to Google Trends is right around the time Steph Curry hit his peak as a search term...

It's too bad to see such a good name be mispronounced so often. I'm hopeful that one day that will change. That's all I've got.

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Perhaps it is because "Stephanie" (Stefany) is a popular name, and being the female version of "Stephen", people assume the pronunciation is the same as the first two syllables of Stephanie.

"Not only has Stephanie been around in America since the late 19th century, she was at one time the 6th most popular girl’s name in the country (1984-1987)."

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    But why would there be a sudden change around 2012 if the name Stephanie has been so popular since well before then? – Upper_Case Jun 21 '18 at 19:35

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